Our church choir, usually at about eighteen voices, is now down to five, (two altos, one mezzo soprano, and two tenor/baritones). The director is an operatic type of soprano who can sing and direct at the same time, and the accompanist is a very fine bass/baritone who can’t sing and play at the same time. He just accompanies, and does it very well. We sing masked and socially distanced, which is interesting in terms of listening to one another and blending. We sing once a month.
I love to sing in the church choir. I have mixed feelings about sitting in the congregation and singing hymns. I grew up in a Norwegian Lutheran congregation in South West Minnesota, and we had to sing every blessed verse in every hymn on Sunday. To this day I just cringe when I have have to sing four or more verses in the hymns. I like the sentiment in the early verses, but I am more drawn to the melody and harmonies.
The folks we sing with in choir are an opinionated bunch when it comes to hymns. The accompanist, a retired high school choir director, blanches when Amazing Grace is in the bulletin. He can’t stand it for some reason. The mezzo soprano, an elementary music teacher, refuses to sing Blessed Assurance because she finds it so smarmy, and my fellow alto, a college librarian, cringes at Holy, Holy, Holy because she had to sing it so often as a child. I am drawn to mournful Scandinavian, German, and English tunes, but please don’t make me sing more than two verses of anything.
When I attended Concordia College in the 1970’s, the Concert Choir sang what I thought was a very odd song written by Paul J. Christiansen, the choir director at the time, based on Carl Sandburg’s Prayers of Steel:
Lay me on an anvil; O God.
Beat me and hammer me into a crowbar.
Let me pry loose old walls.
Let me lift and loosen old foundations.
Lay me on an anvil, God.
Beat me and hammer me into a steel spike.
Drive me into the girders that hold a
Take red-hot rivets and fasten me into the
Let me be the great nail holding a skyscraper
through blue nights
into white stars.
I don’t know If I would have chosen this as the text for a sacred song, but hey, it only has two verses.
What are your favorite songs? What songs can’t you stand? What do you like to sing?